Pictures, Parables, Paradoxes
Kant’s Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience
For Kant, aesthetic judgments are both subjective and universally valid.1 When I make a judgment that a rose is beautiful, I thereby imply that everyone else ought to make the same judgment about that rose. However, as Kant often repeats, that implication does not rest on the concept of a rose, or on a concept of beauty. In fact, Kant sometimes says that how we judge aesthetically must not rest on any concept whatsoever.2 Thus, it seems that in claiming that genuine aesthetic judgments must be valid for everyone, but also merely subjective, Kant has stated something incoherent. In this paper, I will try to show that this is not the case. To do this, I will analyze how Kant views our aesthetic experience and its phenomenology. Since aesthetic judgments have to be made directly, and not, say, based on testimony, it is crucial that we first see exactly what happens when we are faced with an object we deem aesthetically meritorious.
What goes on in us when we stand in front of an object, making a judgment that it is beautiful? What constitutes our aesthetic experience? The first aspect, certainly a precondition of aesthetic perception, is that the judged object is really there. The second aspect is our perceiving the object. A rose we judge to be beautiful is an object located in space and time, perceptible by our senses. Naturally, there should be my reaction to perceiving it. That is the third aspect of...
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